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FICT 71 W — Writing Short Fiction: The Devil’s in the Details

Quarter: Summer
Course Format: Flex Online (About Formats)
Duration: 10 weeks
Date(s): Jun 21—Aug 27
Refund Deadline: Jun 24
Units: 3
Tuition: $910
Instructor(s): Jack Livings
Limit: 20
Class Recording Available: Yes
Status: Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
Flex Online(About Formats)
Jun 21—Aug 27
10 weeks
Refund Date
Jun 24
3 Units
Jack Livings
Registration opens May 17, 8:30 am (PT)
DOWNLOAD THE SYLLABUS » (subject to change)
A good short story is constructed with the precision of a Swiss watch. Any element that doesn’t contribute to the narrative’s development is usually excised. But when it comes to details, how do we know what goes and what stays? Do we tell the reader that the protagonist has green eyes? Do we note that there’s a breeze whipping across the field of grass?

In this course, we will consider details not as window dressing, but as the atomic core of good fiction, as we examine the complex role of details, degrees of precision, using details to create authenticity and authority, and criteria for determining whether a given detail serves the story. In the process, we’ll learn how to avoid “abject naturalism,” a phrase Frank Conroy used to describe the everything-and-the-kitchen-sink method of loading details into a story with no guiding principle. Through weekly exercises, students will learn to write details that illuminate character and move the narrative forward with the precision of an ice spike. For guidance we will read stories and selections from Jim Shepard, Franz Kafka, Alice Munro, and James Alan McPherson, among others, as well as occasional essays. By the end of the course, students will have written and workshopped one carefully detailed story.

Former Stegner Fellow, Stanford

Jack Livings is the author of the novel The Blizzard Party and the story collection The Dog, which received the PEN/Robert W. Bingham Prize and the Rome Prize in Literature. His short fiction has appeared in The Best American Short Stories and Pushcart Prize anthologies. Livings is a former contributing editor at The Paris Review. He received an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Textbooks for this course:

(Required) Amy Tan and Katrina Kenison, Eds., Best American Short Stories 1999 (ISBN 9780395926840 )